Employee Contracts and Disputes

Colorado is an "At Will" State.  Are You Protected?

If you're like most people, your job takes up half of the time that you're awake. People working in Colorado work as "employees at will." Simply put, this means that as an employee, you have no contract with your employer. An at-will employee can be terminated for any reason whatsoever except for certain circumstances covered by state and federal statutes.

If you're an "at will" employee your boss can fire you and replace you with his fishing buddy, or his girlfriend, or his wife. The only exceptions to this rule are contained in Federal and State discrimination laws and some common law exceptions to "employment at will." For example, discrimination on the basis of a protected class, such as gender, ethnic background, race, religion, age or disability is illegal under written law. Common-law is recognized as "wrongful termination in violation of public policy."

Examples of "wrongful termination in violation of public policy" include disciplining or firing you for filing a workers' compensation claim, or for having to serve on a jury, or refusing to participate in illegal activities your employer might be conducting.

Have Your Contracts Reviewed By An Experienced Attorney.
If you work for someone under a written contract you should have that contract reviewed or drafted by an attorney to eliminate the risks associated with employment working under a written contract. If you're an employer, you need a contract with your employee that defines his or her duties and compensation in a way that limits your risk from the unexpected. Provisions addressing intellectual property rights, confidentiality, vehicle use, and the potential exploitation of the means and methods of your business can lower the risk associated from sharing information with your employees. If your employees do not work under a written contract, you may want an employee manual that defines what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you, without giving away your right to terminate employees at will. We can help you by drafting your employment documents, reviewing employment documents or contracts presented to you, or assisting you when the employment relationship goes bad.

How can I determine if I have suffered from discrimination in the workplace?
Discrimination takes many forms. Outright firing you for the color of your skin, or your gender, or your religion, or your ethnic origin, or your age or disability, is illegal under state and federal law. It is also illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability; however, the United States Supreme Court has significantly undermined the rights of the disabled in employment. To win a discrimination claim, you have to have strong evidence that there is discriminatory intent in your employer's actions, and that you suffered an adverse employment decision. The reluctance of fellow workers to testify in court makes the task all the more difficult. Usually documentary evidence, i.e. an email calling you a derogatory name related to your race, a tape recording of the boss calling you racial epithet's, or a large quantity of evidence supporting your claim is required to prevail in court. Proving intent as is required by law is very difficult. We can take your case all the way through court and help you to right the wrong you suffered.

How do I determine if I have a potential discrimination case.
Determining whether you have a discrimination case is the first step. This requires a knowledge of the laws that prohibit discrimination. It is not enough that your boss treats you differently from everyone else. He or she must treat you differently because of your race, gender, or other "protected class" worker. It requires quantifying your damages and assessing the likelihood of success. Most clients begin by writing a chronology of events that includes everything that happened to them since they became employed by the person or company they want to sue for discrimination. Understanding your entire employment history is critical to assessing the likelihood of winning at trial. Reviewing every detail of the discriminatory acts is critical to determining if your employer has broken the law. It is not enough that you are a woman, or an African-American, and that your bosses fired you instead of the white man who always came in late and whose work you had to fix. That man could have been your boss's brother or his drinking buddy. Thus, the facts will determine whether you win or lose, and proving the facts requires quality evidence and/or a lot of evidence. We can help you review your situation to determine if you have a viable claim and what it's worth.

When do I have to file a discrimination charge?
Before you consider your employer or past employer for discrimination, you have to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or its state equivalent. What you write on your charge may determine the future of your claim. Failure to include key facts that bring your discrimination charge within the parameters of the law in your initial charging paper can kill your case before it starts. Additionally, if you do not timely file your charge with the EEOC you will lose your right to sue your employer for their discrimination. Generally, cases of discrimination are filed in the federal court, with state-based claims included. Your charge of discrimination must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the "last adverse employment action" or you will lose your right to sue. Your lawsuit must be brought within 90 days of securing a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC. If you miss this deadline, you lose your rights to sue. In brief, there are many procedural requirements you need to know and follow to preserve your rights. We can help you understand what it takes to succeed on a discrimination claim and to meet all the deadlines to preserve your rights and be compensated for the discrimination levied upon you.

What will I get to compensate me for the discrimination I suffered?
Generally discrimination statutes allow for the recovery of loss of past wages and future wages. Some cases include claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, but the bar is high for these claims. Only if the discriminatory acts are so outrageous that no reasonable person would accept them in their community can you prevail on a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. You can also recover interest on your past wages, and attorney's fees under most discrimination statutes. If the adverse employment action was that you were passed over for promotion due to your race, or gender, etc., you would be entitled to the difference between your wage and what you would've earned had you been promoted. We can help you with your discrimination case from the day you were discriminated against until you obtain justice. We accept discrimination cases on a contingent basis so your out-of-pocket expenses are limited.